Dear Tourism Friends,
The holidays have a way of bringing out the best in people. In our tourism industry, though, we are challenged to put our best forward 365 days a year and that is not always an easy task. More than 181,000 employees in this industry work hard to serve others with excellence. It’s an honor to partner with each of you. During this blessed season, I’m reminded of the enjoyment travel brings into people’s lives, while serving all Tennesseans by contributing to the state’s economic growth. This is indeed a time to be joyful!
In Tennessee, thanks in part to our relatively mild climate, we have an amazing variety of holiday events for our tourists to appreciate. Parades, tree lightings, extravagant celebrations and splendid decorations are all part of a winter wonderland of magic throughout the state. In Tennessee, the stage is set for holiday cheer and family memories.
:pullquote:As we celebrate, we can also look forward to plans for new ventures in the coming year. One such activity is the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit to be held April 28 and 29, 2008, in Knoxville. Last month, I talked about the upcoming Town Hall Forums that were held in the Park’s Gateway communities in November. I am happy to report that all five forums were well-attended and provided significant information to be developed for the Summit in April. Discussions centered around the stewardship of our environment and heritage while sustaining economic development. The industry’s efforts in this area will have a lasting impact.
In addition, the department recently held its first Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission meeting. The meeting was an important first step in formulating our program to commemorate this significant historical event that will impact communities across the state.
These are just two of several ongoing departmental projects that involve the support and team effort of our industry partners. I personally want to thank everyone for your continued support of the department as we conclude another great year in tourism. Our goal is to set the standard for state tourism offices in marketing, advertising, promotion, industry relations and public relations, and to tell tourists everywhere about Tennessee’s world-class tourism treasures.
I want to thank my senior staff, assistant commissioners Tom Lightsey, Jennifer Spence and Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, as well as the entire department, for the tireless work they perform on a daily basis to help make Tennessee tourism the great industry that it is. Special thanks to the staff of our 13 Welcome Centers across the state who offer hospitality to more than 15 million welcome center visitors annually. Their dedication to the traveling public is truly inspirational.
Happy holidays to you and yours as we celebrate this special season of joy.
With heartfelt wishes of Christmas blessings and holiday fun,
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
New Features in 2008 Vacation Guide
The 2008 Tennessee Vacation Guide brings a new dimension to travel guides as Tennessee launches the Official Tennessee Travel Journal. The “journal” theme continues tourism’s personalized travel branding, initiated with not only the current Elvis and Dolly Tennessee Road Trip television spot, but even more so, the state’s new point-of-view print advertising and upcoming television campaign. “Our new campaign focuses on the visitor experience and the television spots actually have Tennessee celebrities telling their Tennessee stories,” said Jennifer Spence, assistant commissioner of marketing. "The Official Tennessee Travel Journal concept ties in well with this upcoming campaign and inspires visitors to take their own unique Tennessee adventure."
In a continuing effort to deliver the most comprehensive, yet easily accessible, travel journal for our visitors, the guide features East, Middle and West Regions divided into nine distinct sub-regions. Graphically enhanced with easy-to-navigate, color-coded sections, the sub-regions include Chattanooga and Southeast, Knoxville and Middle East, Northeast, Smoky Mountain Region, Nashville and Surrounding Area, Upper Cumberland, Memphis and Surrounding Area, Northwest, and Southwest.
:pullquote:The 2008 Vacation Guide provides an enhanced reader experience with a number of unique advancements. A Tennessee Road Trip Sweepstakes was offered via tnvacation.com, resulting in a journal-log of the trip as one of the major feature stories in this year’s guide. In addition, winner Stefanie Tatsis and friend Colleen Drain’s trip was documented on video and is available at tnvacation.com/sweepstakes/videos. Further book improvements include “Online Travel Tools” highlighting tnvacation.com’s new viral marketing campaign as well as industry partner’s podcast, geocaching and live action webcams as well as our very own TN e-book of the 2008 Tennessee Travel Journal.The book continues to feature more than 3,000 listings of Tennessee Tourism attractions, as well as comprehensive accommodations information, campgrounds, state parks listings and visitors services details for each Tennessee location. Truckloads (550,000) of the 200+ page guide are scheduled for delivery in December, just in time to begin distribution for the New Year!
Clarksville Goes Gold
The Rivers and Spires Festival in Clarksville has been awarded the Gold Grand Pinnacle by the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA). This prestigious award sponsored by Haas & Wilkerson Insurance represents the top honor in the industry for festivals “under $250,000.”
Rivers and Spires is a free festival covering a four block radius and featuring scores of activity booths, six entertainment stages, over 100 entertainers, numerous food and beverage vendors, and much more. A major festival highlight this year included a patriotic celebration with reigning Miss USA® and Clarksville-native Rachel Smith singing the national anthem, and a concert later that evening with Lee Greenwood.
The event, produced by the Clarksville-Montgomery County Convention & Visitors Bureau, could not have been done without a strong volunteer base according to Doug Barber, Special Events Manager. “I would be remiss without recognizing the 600 volunteers and 35 strong committees that have made the Rivers & Spires Festival what it has become today.”
“The IFEA/Haas & Wilkerson Pinnacle Awards represents the hallmark of excellence in the festivals and events industry,” said IFEA President & CEO, Steven Wood Schmader, CFEE. IFEA has more than 2,400 member festivals from around the world. There were more than 1,500 entries in the 2007 awards competition which honored the best special events, festival materials, promotions and ideas among the membership.
Additional Pinnacle Awards went to festivals and events in these Tennessee cities: Gatlinburg (12), Memphis (10), Chattanooga (8), Pigeon Forge (5) and Sevierville (5).
Left to right: Calvin Anderson, Deanie Parker,
Lisa Wheeler and Greg Duckett at the 70’s-style
Stax benefit (Photo by Earl Stanback)
Memphis Struts Soul
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis recently hosted its third annual STAXADELIC fund-raising event for the Stax Music Academy. Those attending the 1970s celebration once again put on their platform shoes, sideburns, and Afro puffs and relived an era that will never be forgotten.
This year’s event was bigger, better, wilder, and crazier than ever with a Soul Train dance line, fantastic cuisine and cocktails from the era of funk, soul, and disco; a costume contest, original “soul” art by local artists for sale, and live entertainment by the legendary Jerry “The Iceman” Butler. The museum credits Butler, along with Curtis Mayfield, as being one of the architects of soul music, having formed the group The Impressions in 1958.
The Stax Music Academy provides music education and unique performance opportunities to potentially at-risk students while inspiring them to enhance their academic and leadership skills. It was founded in 2000 in a similar mindset to that of the original Stax Records many years ago. In the neighborhood known as Soulsville, USA, kids from any background were welcomed into Stax. Many of them became world-famous musicians. Barriers between blacks and whites were broken, as everyone came together to celebrate a love for music! At the Stax Music Academy, students from all over Memphis and Shelby County again come together in the names of hard work, dedication, and, of course, music.
Welcome Center Round-Up
Welcome Centers Provide Holiday Cheer
Tis' the season for the Tennessee Welcome Centers to stand ready as travelers journey to and through the State. As the calendar year rounds out, family and friends will bustle along the interstates in route to merriment with others. The 13 Welcome Centers will provide comfort and rest to those who make stops along their travels.
"Tennessee's Welcome Centers are open 365 days a year. It is especially heart-warming to realize that, throughout this season, even on Christmas Day, Tennessee's Welcome Centers are providing an important service to the many holiday travelers," said Barry Young, Welcome Center director.
Whether traveling east to west or north to south, one is sure to find a Welcome Center along their interstate route. The Centers are located on the following Interstates.
Ardmore (I-65), Bristol (I-81), Chattanooga (I-75), Clarksville (I-24), Dyersburg (I-155), Hartford (I-40), Jellico (I-75), Memphis (I-55), Memphis (I-40), Mitchellville (I-65), Nickajack (I-24), Smith County (I-40), Tiftonia (I-24).
From all of us at the Tennessee Welcome Centers - Happy Holidays and safe travels!
For the fifth consecutive year, The Hermitage Hotel remains the only Five Diamond Award hotel in Tennessee, as well as five contiguous states. The American Automobile Association awards hotels with the distinction. In 2008, 100 hotels will hold the distinction, according to AAA. The closest city to Nashville with an AAA Five Diamond rated hotel is Atlanta. The Hermitage Hotel opened in 1910 after being commissioned by 250 Nashville residents. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only remaining grand hotel in Nashville.
UT's Culinary Institute offers accelerated program for chef certification. Now days, menus are typically chef driven, creating an increased demand for professionally trained chefs and cooks. To meet that demand, the new Culinary Institute at the University of Tennessee is offering an intense 10 month certificate program that meets U.S. Department of Labor guidelines. The culinary school is non-academic, requiring only a high school diploma or GED and an interest in a career in food preparation, for admission.
Oak Ridge residents came together to honor their city's role in World War II. This Veteran's Day marked the 65th anniversary of the Manhattan Project. The U.S. government selected Oak Ridge to build an official laboratory, which was used to make our country's first atomic bomb. Local historians say many Oak Ridge residents gave their homes and property to the government in order to help with the war efforts.
The Ryman brought home the National Theatre of the Year Award in 2003 and 2004 and is in the running again this year. Only a handful of venues across the entire nation can get to be nominated and the Ryman has been nominated four times and won twice. Winning 3 out of 4 times would be a great achievement for the "Mother Church of Country Music." The Pollstar awards are regarded as the most prestigious in the industry.
Cindy Milligan has replaced Susan Goldblatt as the Tourism Director of SETTA. Susan has been appointed Infrastructure Project Administrator, a job she has been filling since March 2007.
Cindy was most recently at the TN Aquarium, Chattanooga, filling numerous roles, including PR, Tour & Travel and Development. Susan says that Cindy will bring the Marketing and Public Relations skills that SETTA needs.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has selected Dustin McCubbins to serve as manager of the Sundquist Wildlife Management Area, which covers portions of Anderson, Campbell, and Scott Counties. McCubbins, a native of Knoxville, moves to his new position after previously working for TWRA as a wildlife technician at Royal Blue WMA. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries science. As the Sundquist WMA manager, McCubbins' duties will include wildlife management, law enforcement, public education, and data collection.
Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, Inc. announced that Richard Gabel has been selected as new executive director of Main Street. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and native of Middle Tennessee, Gabel was most recently Executive Director of Quantum House, Inc. in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Jackson has announced the appointment of Colleen Coury to the position of CVB director. Colleen is well qualified having worked for many years in tourism in Pennsylvania. Colleen replaces Abbie Gristy who accepted a sales position with Miles Media.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You